Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 in Review: October through December

I had no idea it would take THREE posts to tell the story of 2011!! See Part 1 here, Part 2 here and below is October through today.

What would a month of running be without a trip to White Rock? We met out at the lake to have one last little lap plus before Marci headed out to Chicago to slay the dragon of her sub-five hour finish. It was a nice easy run, and we followed it up with pancakes post-run with Kris, who is taking a sabbatical from running as she incubates her Baby Snackpack!!

Familiar sight. 
Baby Snackpacks! Due April 2012!
The next week found me out at the Tyler Half Marathon, where I got to run with some lovely ladies who are part of Racing It Off's team of athletes. It was a lot of fun to run with folks I hadn't met before and with Lesley, who I've known for more than a year but haven't really been able to run with before now. Not to mention that Tyler just ended up being a big ol' Frunner party, with Team K, Elaine, Robin, and FAWN from Milano with her team doing the full marathon. Always so much fun to see Fawn. Just as much fun was literally running into Julie on the streets of Tyler and us yelling "NINE MILES" at each other down the street! I'm sure the neighbors appreciated that!

So happy to see Fawn before the race!
Holly, Elaine, Lesley & Emily at the start
Best post-race cool-water bath EVER!
Sweet Julie came out to take pics & cheer!
Then it was time for Palo Duro. I had waffled on whether I was doing this race or not, but after a decent showing at Ducks, and with a free entry off NTTR, I decided to go for it. The race ended up not quite as well as I'd expected, with a dizzy and disappointing DNF after 18 miles, but the weekend was otherwise a wonderful experience. I got to spend some quality time with two of the most inspiring and encouraging women I know on the road trip to West Texas. Plus, it's always a good time when we can hang out and cheer on runners at the end of a long race. Oh, and I CAMPED!! Yep, it's true!! I can't wait for this race to roll around again next year - I will be prepared for a stellar race and another amazing weekend here in 2012!

Pre-race dinner with Frunners! 
Great group of girls here!
Got me some quality E time this trip!! <3
Julie looks lovely per usual. I look like DNF... 
After licking my wounds for a while, the perfect remedy to get my mojo back was a local race where I helped Marci pace her sister-in-law to her first 5k. We'd be nice & easy as we talked to Jessica & kept her moving to meet her goal of finishing strong. Seeing a bunch of Frunners before & after the race and along the course was a bonus too! 

Never know who you're gonna find on the course!
Jessica & Marci looking strong! 
Somewhere in here, I turned a year older. Yee-haw. Go, me! Doesn't count since I didn't flip AG or anything!! 

October Stats: 
Total Miles: 74
Number of Races: 3 (one half-marathon, one 50k DNF, one 5k)

November was crazy. There's no other way to say it. I had FOUR races in November, two of them 50ks. Looking back, I was completely out of my mind, especially coming off the DNF at Palo Duro. Yes, I said it. But at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Live and learn, I guess. There were some tough times in there, and some really good times, especially at my third 50k finish line at Rocky Raccoon. Always fun to see Fawn, meet new Frunner Tony as he finished his first 50k on his way to his first 100 miler in February, and watch Fiona, Libby and Alicia all become ultra-runners too!

My favoritest finish line photo of the month! 
Was great to meet Tony in person! 
I doubled up the next weekend, as I not only did the Rockledge Rumble out at Northshore, but I also got to take Marci out to her first trail run at River Legacy (last year's Chupacabra run notwithstanding - it was dark and she had no idea what she was doing then!!) - always fun to introduce a runner to the fun and dirt of trails!!

Looks like a gingerbread cookie to me! 
It was a pretty day for a trail run
Matt & Team Sparling! 
Obligatory self-portrait at River Legacy. 
We had another great cheering experience at the Fort Worth Marathon, where we got to see and support a lot of frunners on a crazy hot day. What was with the weather this year?! Either crazy hot or stupid rain? In any case, a day with Frunners reaching their goals is a good day for sure!! 

Glitter signs!! 
FWM Cheer Squad! 
LOVE this girl!! 20 miles ain't nothing but a thing! 
Then it was time for the big one. The "A" race of the year. I had downgraded to the 50k after the DNF at Palo Duro, mostly because of the very honest conversations I had with Drum and Erin on the drive there and back about motivation and desire and the need to prove something. But even so, I still wanted to have a good showing there, and was pretty disappointed to DNF after 16 miles.  For sure, hanging out with all  my friends post-race helped ease the sting of my knee not cooperating with me, but I had to really face that my knee was not in a good place (literally, it seems) and I was injured. But I have to say, it really is amazing how healing the company of my Frunners can be, even on the most disappointing of days.

Pre-race at Wild Hare
Crazy Campers! 
Tony & Fawn after their 50 miles!! 
Fun at the campsite with B, Rick, George & Tini
I took the week after Wild Hare off,  hoping that resting the knee would help it get better. Then, signing up for the Arlington Turkey Trot at the last minute put me at my fourth race for the month. But I scored a new post-surgery PR, as I was pulled along in the last half-mile by my ultra-pusher Jeremy, in town to visit family for Thanksgiving and do his first ever 5K (he got those pesky 100-miles done first....). I pushed harder than I had in a while and was pleased that I was able to sustain a strong effort when I really wanted to quit. And then when I was in more pain in the days after three miles on roads than I was post-Wild Hare, I realized that I really needed to pay attention and fix my body, for the sake of my mind and my running future. Not really sure how many wake-up calls I needed...

Yes, I know it's a proof. I was camera-less that day! 
November Stats: 
Total Miles: 76
Number of Races: 4 (one 5k, one 15k, two 50ks - one DNF)

Then we come to December. Oh, December was epic in oh so so many ways!! I loved December, and we aren't done yet!!  We started off the month with another tradition, the Santa Scurry up in Keller. DP Dino Boy & I ran this with Bojana last year, and I ran it again with Marci and her family, but this time, we had extra special cheerleaders and glitter signs when Cherry & Drum showed up to cheer!! Jessica finished her second 5k, and her two boys ran a strong race, too, along with Marci's hubby Fred. YAY!! How much fun is that?  TONS of fun, I tell ya!

Cole, Chase & Jason pre-race! 
Cheer squad!! 
Definitely a highlight of the month, and the year, was Operation Sunshine at White Rock. It was such a brutal day, and being able to be out there for all our friends and all the other runners made it memorable for sure. I won't be able to say that I ran one of the coldest, wettest marathons in Dallas history, but I can say that I was there!
Shannon & Elaine, one week post Route 66 Marathon! 
MK ready for her last five miles
Mark L coming back for a soggy hug
The next weekend found us out on the trails again, this time volunteering at the inaugural Isle Du Bois trail race. It was COLD again and we had a great day checking off all the runners as they came through the aid station. We heard it was a tough trail and it was fun to be a part of the experience and pay it forward some for all the times we've run and benefited from awesome volunteers!

The Ladiy Elves of Fire Road Aid Station. 
Our panoramic view of the course
Being a volunteer is TOUGH work!! 
The fun continued on the Donkey Ride, where we begged the question "how many runners does it take to change a bicycle tire?" The answer, for those who don't know, is it takes one cyclist married to a runner who came along for the ride to change two tires and fix a dropped chain!! I was worried about how I'd do since I'd never ridden more than 15 miles ever before, but it was a great time with amazing people and I had so much fun! I can't wait to do it again!!

Thanks to Brian who was our personal mechanic! 
Frikers?! Fricyclists? Nope, Frunners on Wheels! 
Puppies! Llamas! Donkeys!! 
Sweet llama!! 
Fun times on the Donkey Ride!
December Stats: 
Total Miles: 23
Number of Races: 2 (one 5k, one marathon on schedule)

So that brings us to now. In three days, I'll toe the line at my 10th marathon or longer distance run of the year. I've had to take some time off big miles while I rehab my knee (pinched meniscus jammed back in, addressing pulling from IT band, weakness & inflexibility in my ankle, and tight quad that are all contributing factors). But, I have been released to run the full, both days, so now it's just a matter of getting it done. The pace won't be fast, even for me, and if there is any pain beyond the typical marathon discomfort, I'm pulling back. I've got big goals for 2012 that can't be impacted, so I'm going to play it smart. But I also am wanting to end the year with a bang, and start 2012 the right way, too. So, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, now that you've made it all the way to the end of MY year, what was your favorite memory from 2011?  What will you remember from your life that made this year special?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Retrospective, July to September

This is the second installment of my year in review.  Read Part One HERE

I didn't run much at all in July, but I did quite a few miles of walking and hiking in and got a chance to see my Frunners nearly every weekend.  It was hot, crazy Texas hot, so I was actually glad to have an excuse to not be in the middle of all that with intense training. And even though I wasn't racing, I did finish a race in July, the Colony Fourth of July 5k. Erin was gracious enough to walk with me and keep me company, and we hung out after to watch the two Michelles get AG awards and then were treated to pancakes and mimosas at Team K's house after that. Definitely see a new Frunner tradition starting with this race!!

Drum-Ninja Showdown, Part One!
Always a great day when I see Mr K & the Lindsley  men!
The next week, I went out to a social run put on by NTTR at Big Cedar in south Dallas. I was relegated to hiking since I was still on restriction, but it was a great morning and a fun new trail. I haven't had a chance to explore these trails as much as I'd like, but am definitely looking forward to hosting a Frunner Beer & Bagels run on this side of town out here soon.

Top of the hill out at Cedar Ridge. 
The next day, I went back out to the trails to meet Libby & Alicia for a few more miles on trails at Northshore.  This is the outing in which Alicia coined the phrase that my stories are "measured in miles!"  Yes, that is probably true!! I do have a story for nearly all occasions!!

Requisite self-portrait. Foreshadowing of things to come... 
You meet all kinds of people out on the trail!
A few weeks later, I went out to River Legacy to cheer on Marci in a small 5k put on by one of our favorite race directors. Jeph Abara puts on a summer series of no-frills 5k races up at River Legacy, with small crowds, a scenic flat course through my favorite park, and simple amenities for a low cost. These are good races for tuning up 5k strategies and getting a gauge of your fitness in the heat of ths summer. At the July race is where I finally met Byron, who is as supportive and encouraging a runner as I have ever met. Definitely a highlight of my year to get to know this man!!

My favoritest park! 
Pre-race with Marci
Looking good out there, Marci!
The next day, we had a HUGE Frunner party out in Fort Worth for El Scorcho. Tons of people were running either the 50k or 25k, and Marci, Julie, Cassie, Megan and DP DinoBoy were all out there with me to cheer and spray runners with cool water as they lapped us again and again. It was crazy-hot, and we had good times for sure!! This might go down as one of my favorite nights of the year!!

Make it glitter, make it rain! About to get our cheer on!
Sweet Julie came out just to cheer! YAY!
Tutu power!! 
THIS. This is why I run! 
With Blanca & Lupe - Latina POWAH!
Post-run with 25kers
The next week, I was cleared for running and did a few weekday runs around my neighborhood, then was able to go up north to meet NTX runners for a loop at Erwin Park. There was a great group of ladies out there, old friends and new, but it was tough for me. This was the run where I realized I had a lot of work to do before I could get back to my previous level of fitness. This wasn't a fun run, but as usual, the frunner gatherings before, during and after the run made it a good day!!

Pre-Run at Erwin Park
Great girls' run - pretty colors! 
Picture Break!! 
Fi billy-goating up that hill!
I wrapped up the month with a nice easy loop around White Rock with my buddy Sarah. From the first time I ran with her, I've always just enjoyed our time together, and we had a wonderful chat and caught up with life in general. And we found a few frunners out on the lake to make it an ever better day!!

Morning at the Lake
Team K!! 
Great time when we run into Frunners!
with my Sarah! <3
July Stats: 
Total Miles: 50
Number of Races: 1 (one 5k)

August found me out at White Rock again, this time with Marci and Erin, for a loop around the lake and breakfast post-run with Megan and Mel.  The heat of the summer was definitely upon us and my lack of training was hard to deal with even with scheduled walk breaks during my longest run post-surgery. But, we laughed and had a good time, per usual with these two!

The Whitest Girls You Know
Yes, I am that short... 
The next day, I met Sarah again, this time out at Northshore for a combo trail run and swim lesson. This was another great day on the trails - I was starting to get my legs back and it's always just a fine day when I get to run with my favorite barefoot Jew!! 

Cherry could hear us through the trees!! hahaha! 
Dirty girl. Yes, please!
I swam in that. For reals. Go me!
The next weekend found us out at River Legacy for another 5k, this time I was able to run and get a good sense of where I was fitness-wise. Of course, it rained for the first time in months, so we started in a steady drizzle and were treated to muggy warm conditions for the last two miles. It was tough, but as usual, having Marci along really helped make it a good day. Scoring AG hardware helped make it a good day, too!!

Hardware. And, yes, that's a long-sleeved shirt in August!
The next day was the Hottest Half. I swore last year I would never run another race in Texas with the word HOT in the name, in any way, shape or form. But then, I saw the hardware, and I changed my mind. And there were a TON of Frunners out there, too, so it was guaranteed to be a good day, no matter the temperature.

But this race... man, this was hard. Probably my hardest of the year to date, physically and mentally. We only were out there for a training run, for the hardware. No time goals. But, this race... Lots of memories came flooding back to me while I was on this course, of who I used to be as a runner and was no longer because of the surgery. Memories of running partners who I've run around this lake with in the past, some of whom are no longer friends, and others who have become closer friends and family to me than I could ever have imagined. Memories of hard training runs, hot training runs, windy training runs.  Memories of the tears shed around this lake, and anger and frustration exorcised around this lake, and mostly, memories of laughter and love shared around this lake.

The White Rock Lake Girls were born on this lake, and it will always be special to me. We had a reunion out here that day, too, even though Mel and Kris ran the 10k instead of the half. That was so special to me, and the fact that Fiona and Marci ran with me, when they were both so much faster than I, meant so much. They also knew when I needed them at my side, and when I needed to run alone, to think through all that was flying through my brain, to process all my emotions and thoughts.   There are a lot of bridges on that course, more than we'd ever noticed even though we ran that lake constantly all year 'round. And when it was time to throw negativity and pain and doubt and heartache over the bridge, they were there for me. That was just beyond awesome. I can never express how important that was to me, to have them there with me as I faced that half-marathon that day.

And in the end, this race was good. It was hard, hot, and miserable while we were out there, but in the end, it was a good day.

These people rock my world!
Two of my favoritest runner dudes! 
Lots of peeps running in the heat! 
Through fire for these girls. FIRE! 

August Stats: 
Total Miles: 71
Number of Races: 2 (one half-marathon, one 5k)

September started out with a return to the trails, after a little bit of a funk after Hottest Half.  I went through a little bit of a slump emotionally and physically after that race, in which I didn't want to race or run, or even meet up with Frunners. I had to snap out of it. And to help me, I met up with Drum, Coco and Cherry for a few miles out at Northshore. They had so much common sense and really helped me get my head back on straight. Nothing like a little dirt on your feet to help you figure out the problems of the world!

Coco,Drum & Cherry. 
Next weekend found me back at River Legacy for yet another 5k race and another AG place for both me and Marci! This was a great day, made even better by a friendly Grapevine police officer & breakfast with the Ninjas afterward. Fi scored hardware in her 5k race too!! It was a banner day for the WRL Girls for sure!!

Bright-ass shoes scored us hardware!
I wrapped up September with Run for the Ducks out in Weatherford, way west of the known universe. My buddy Derek and a few other folks were out there too, for this timed, looped course, in which we had 8 hours to rack up as many miles as we could. It was still crazy hot, even for September, and while it was a tough day, it was made better by the camaraderie of all the runners that we saw over & over again throughout the race, and especially wonderful by Marci coming out to crew and pace us for a few miles. I ended up with 27 miles for the day, and renewed confidence in my abilities to run an ultra. Oh, and I also had a GREAT appreciation for watermelon!!!

Fountain at start & end of each loop
Our sherpa Marci with D & me, post-run. 
These cobblestones beat me down after 27 miles! 
September Stats: 
Total Miles: 110
Number of Races: 3 (one 5k, one 10+ miler, one timed race)